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Making the best of Setsuden HELL
Tokyo in July = HOT HOT HOT. Due to the ongoing nuclear power plant issues in Fukushima much of the Eastern part of Japan is relying more heavily on certain power options then it normally would. This means that if people use too much energy at once, there is the danger of blackouts. The entire summer everyone was very careful to use the least amount of energy possible. (Setsuden -energy conservation) The neon lights of Shinjuku and Shibuya were at a minimum, decorative water fountains remained off and some events that use too much energy were cancelled. But the biggest and most noticeable form of conservation was minimal air conditioning.
OHH EMM GEE It was sooo hot…EVERYWHERE. There is nothing like walking around during the day and then wanting to step into a cafe for a cold drink to find that it’s just as hot or hotter then it is outside. Surprisingly the establishments that weren’t taking heed to any of the rules were clothing stores. I found myself dipping into several stores for relief and naturally walking out with a few items…tee hee hee.
Anyways, this didn’t stop my brother and I from having a blast. There were enough vending machines full of cold water to keep us going.
We went to the famous Takeshita Dori which is the heart of Harajuku. Harajuku is the area that inspired Gwen Stefanie’s “Harajuku Lover’s Tour” and the design of her fragrance bottles. There are lots of boutiques and cafes. Here is where you will spot some of the crazy fashion that Japan is known for. People wearing pink curly up-dos, lots of make-up, and really pouffy dresses. Because of the variety and relatively low prices (by Japanese standards) it is a shopping area for people of high school age. Walking down that street feels like being at a suburban mall on a Friday night.
Any moment to sit down in the heat was taken. Therefore lots of snacks were had. We stopped here for some takoyaki which are octopus dumplings. They are a common street food and one of my favorites. I must point out that there really isn’t such a thing as street food in Japan as it is considered really rude to walk around and eat. So it’s a food sold on the street that you then have to find a place to sit-down and eat.
Took a quick cruise from Tokyo to Odaiba which is a man-made island right in the middle of Tokyo Bay with outlet malls and cheesy attractions. Wasn’t a fan of Odaiba but anything that got wind whipping past our faces was much appreciated.
Time to eat again. This time we stopped at a great yakiniku place in Odaiba. The meat was melt in your mouth delicious and the sauces were to die for.
The boys also enjoyed beating the heat in Akhihabara (Electric Town). This is the area of Tokyo where geeks go to die. There are 6-story arcades, hobby collector shops, camera stores, DVD stores and department stores that are 10-stories strictly dedicated to electronics. I try to avoid this area as much as possible but it was nice to dip into the arcades and bask in the very low low air conditioning.
Time to eat again. This time it was okonomiyaki. In case you haven’t caught on I like -yaki foods. Yaki means “to grill” Okonomiyaki is hands down my favorite Japanese dish. There are different variations but the basic premise is that you shred cabbage, mix up an egg and flour based batter, combine and add whatever you want (that’s where the “okonomi-” part comes in, it means “what you like). Some common ingredients are pork, squid, and octopus. Grill all of this into a pancake, cover with okonomiyaki sauce and lots of mayo and devour. It is soooo good that I taught myself how to make it so that I can continue to eat it when I return to the states.
We took a trip north of Tokyo to the town of Nikko. Unfortunately it rained really hard when we arrived so we spent about an hour sitting on the floor inside a shrine with several other tourist. If you have to wait out a thunderstorm there is no better places to be then in an ancient shrine. The shrines and temples in Nikko were beautiful and much more ornate then what you usually see. One really cool fact about Nikko is that some of the carvings on one of the shrine doors are the origin of the “See no Evil, Hear no Evil, Speak no evil Monkeys”. There was an entire proverb based around the monkeys that I won’t take the time to repeat here, but it was really cool to find that out. For some reason I didn’t know those monkeys dated back that far. I always imagined they were from some radio commercial in the US in the 40s or something like that.
This last activity can be filed under “Only in Japan”. One of the quirky, trendy things going on in Tokyo right now is themed restaurants. We chose to go to a jail-themed one. When you arrive a hostess dressed in a scandalous police uniform handcuffs you and leads you to your “cell” They close the bars behind you and you are left with a menu of interesting food and beverage choices that all center around the theme. For some reason I think this was like a jail/scientific experiment gone wrong type of place because all of our drinks came in beakers. The food was subpar but the best part was about 45 minutes into our meal when all of the lights went out and Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” started blaring and all kinds of scary characters came out and banged on our cell bars. It was truly an entertaining and memorable experience.
I prob sweated off 5 pounds during the summer here but we had such an amazing time. Summer is really a great season here with so many different things to enjoy.
Tokyo Bay: Sharks, Sun and Fun
It has been a loooong time, but I am really dedicated to this blog and documenting our experience while overseas. So…please excuse my retro blogging. Between editing photos and re-sizing the ease of blogging has lessened so I have fallen really behind.
Anyways one of the highlights of the summer was when my brother came to visit. In addition to climbing Fuji-yama, we got to fish and swim in Tokyo Bay. Waking up early and armed with plenty of beverages (alcoholic and non) we set out with about 30 of our friends to the bay and hopped on an amazing chartered boat.
I have only fished one time off a pier in Virginia Beach, VA. From what I recall it was very tourist friendly. This was more of the real deal. I had to put on my own hook and handle some gross (and smelling) bait.
We caught lots of mackerel and the boat captain cut it up for us right on the boat. Obvi it was the freshest sashimi EVER! So yummy.
When the captain asked who wanted to catch a shark volunteer number one was of course MJ. After a long battle of man versus beast. He pulled this beauty on board.
We fired up the teppan grill and ate so much great food.
Then it was time to attempt crazy stunts from the roof of the boat. The water was such a gorgeous blue and the little islands and coastline reminded me of somewhere tropical.
All of the sun and fun equaled LIGHTS OUT for me. I had the worst sunburn imaginable the next day but it was seriously so much fun.